DMK, AIADMK slug it out for MGR's legacy once again

DMK, AIADMK slug it out for MGR's legacy once again

MLAs speaking in the Assembly were weighed down by history

DMK, AIADMK slug it out for MGR's legacy once again

The venue was the last session of the Tamil Nadu Assembly on Monday at the historic Fort St George, the British-built seat of the government in South India for nearly 370 years.

Even 23 years after MGR’s death, as the matinee idol was popularly known, a soul-stirring song on the dauntless qualities of a true political leader — from a vintage collection of songs from an MGR-Saroja Devi starring Tamil film “Pana Thottam” of 1963 —  was surprisingly the defining moment as curtains came down on the Assembly’s last session in this Fort complex.

Thus, every MLA speaking in the Assembly on Monday was weighed down by history, with Deputy Chief Minister M K Stalin making it official in the House that this was indeed the “last session” at Fort St George. The state budget for 2010-11, in the next session, will be presented in the new massive Assembly complex coming up off the arterial “Anna Salai” here.

To trigger the race was Opposition AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa. Winding up the debate on the governor’s address, after a hammer-blow critique of the ruling DMK on almost all fronts, her parting shot were the lines from this MGR song, “Enna Thaan Nadakkum, Nadakattume,” sending ripples across the House. “Amma” spiritedly quoted those lines not only to draw inspiration from her political mentor and the AIADMK’s founder, but also urged the people not to despair by DMK’s “misrule” for, as in MGR’s words, “there is a leader in waiting, even if darkness devours justice temporarily.”

It was on that note “Amma” ended her nearly one-hour speech, punctuated by uproarious scenes as she often crossed swords with treasury benches.

‘Od friend’

However, 86-year-old DMK patriarch and Chief Minister M Karunanidhi was not to be left behind. Having the privilege of saying the last word, the DMK chief turned the tables on her, quoting the very same MGR song, but gave it a different reading as “MGR’s old friend”.

Karunanidhi said he would never forget how MGR had rallied support for him in not only taking over the party reins, after Annadurai’s sudden death in 1969, but to also succeed Annadurai as chief minister. “So, I can say with confidence that the song rendered by the opposition leader (Jayalalithaa) here was sung by MGR with me (Karunanidhi) in mind,” the DMK leader quipped to loud thumping of ruling party benches.

“And MGR only refers to a ‘Thalaivar’ (male leader) and not ‘Thalaivi (woman leader)’ in that song, which was again in my favour,”  Karunanidhi added with gusto, in seeking to reclaim the MGR legacy.

Jayalalithaa slammed the ruling DMK on several fronts — accusing it of again creating a “debt trap”, with freebies and unproductive expenditure that did not really reach or benefit the people. Amid noisy scenes, some of her remarks against some DMK ministers were expunged. But Karunanidhi was on a historical wavelength, recalling progressive legislation like temple entry for Dalits, voting rights for women and path-breaking resolutions the Assembly within Fort St George had witnessed in its nearly 100-year-old existence.

He also went over its architectural history and past chief ministers, including Rajaji at this “gaddi.”  “This Assembly hall here has seen many good things and also several unpleasant episodes. But let us not rancour over the bad things as we move into our new House, so that we stay more focused on the problems of the people and of the nation,” Karunanidhi emotively urged. Later, the Assembly adjourned sine die after passing several key Bills.

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